Risotto makes for an awesome comfort food and at the same time, sophisticated dinner. Although traditionally prepared with Arborio rice, an Italian short grain variety, you could easily swap out some of the Eight Common Grains, such as barley. With Arborio it just takes a little extra time and some degree of your attention, yet the process is very simple.

The basis of a good risotto involves starting out by cooking onions, adding in the grain, deglazing the pan with some wine, then slowly adding hot broth as it is absorbed by the rice. Some then top the dish with grated cheese, like Parmesan. The process results in a creamy consistency and rich flavor.


Other, uncooked vegetables can be added in right after the onion and before adding the grain. And pre-cooked vegetables could be added in during the last few minutes of cooking and could save on overall  . Recently, I made a risotto with beets and guest chef Hilary Adams made one with butternut squash. Both were delicious and all it takes is mastering the rather simple technique. A pot of either of these risottos could easily feed six as a main dish with cooked greens or a salad on the side.

Butternut Squash Risotto

serves 6

1 quart chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
nutmeg, grated, to taste
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
7 or 8 leaves fresh sage, slivered (optional)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Bring stock and water to a simmer in a sauce pot then reduce heat to low to keep hot. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat with the olive oil. When hot, add the onions and garlic and cook until softened – 2 to 3 minutes, then add in the squash and nutmeg. Add rice and toast for a minute or two, until fragrant – this helps bring out the rice’s rich, nutty flavor. Next, pour in the wine, if using, and cook it off for 2 to 3 minutes. Start ladling in the stock in intervals – a couple of ladles at a time. Allow the liquid to be absorbed between each addition. Risotto will cook in about 30 minutes from the first addition of the stock. You will be able to tell when the risotto is near done when it is no longer absorbing liquid. But taste and cook to a consistency to your liking. In the last-minute of cooking time stir in the sage and cheese. Adjust seasoning, add in butter, if using, and serve.

Beet Risotto

Replace the squash with four medium, peeled and chopped beets. Omit the nutmeg and sage.

Beets Margherita

For whatever reason, it seems like beets often get a bad rap. Maybe people think they only come rubbery and syrupy out of a can. But, as I’ve recently discovered for myself – fresh beets are amazing! They have a uniquely sweet, earthy flavor that just can’t be beat. (Ok, bad pun.) Really though, if you’re not eating them already, you should give them a try. Nothing bugs me more than people who say they don’t eat this or that, whatever it might be, when the only time they might have tried that item was years ago, prepared by someone who didn’t quite know what they were doing or who wasn’t using the freshest, most tasteful of ingredients. So, here’s your chance to try beets again, or add another method to your beet repertoire. It’s a quick salad called Beets Margherita.

Last week guest chef Randal Smathers and I presented this dish at an Everyday Chef cooking demo. It is essentially a Caprese Salad (mozzarella, tomato and basil) but with the tomatoes replaced by beets. And it works very well. As Randal noted, a good dish has a mix of flavors. The sweetness of the beets partners well with the bitterness of greens, sourness of the vinegar, and umaminess (earthiness/meatiness) of the mozzarella.

Don’t forget to save the beet greens! Here are some ideas for how to use them.


(per person)

  • 2 medium beets
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 3 cups mesclun or other bitter greens
  • Fresh basil leaf
  • 1-2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Black pepper
  • Flatbread
  • Optional garnishes: Blueberries, raw or cooked onion, grilled meats.

To prepare:

Take off the tops and root stems from the beets; boil in lightly salted water for 10-15 minutes until fork tender, then cool in an ice bath or under running tap water. Scrape the loosened skin with a paring knife or simply slide the skins off.

Slice the beets and mozzarella, taking care to keep them separate. Shred the basil leaf.

Arrange the greens on a plate. Top with the sliced beets and cheese, garnish with basil and any optional garnishes, drizzle with oil and vinegar and a grind of black pepper, and serve with flatbread.


  • Add grilled meat (chicken, beef or lamb); serve the salad on top of the flatbread.
  • If you’re using a home-baked flatbread, put the half the sliced beets, cheese, basil and onion on the flatbread before baking; serve the greens on the flatbread and use the other half of the “toppings” as garnishes.

Rhubarb… Salad?

Yes!  Spring’s queen of tartness can be eaten in a main course.  Though Everyday Chef loves sweet and tart rhubarb desserts, we also love to explore new flavors–this Roasted Beet and Rhubarb Salad recipe from the Domestic Diva is surprisingly fresh and flavorful.

Roasted Beet and Rhubarb Salad with Orange Tarragon Dressing The Domestic Diva


For the dressing: 1 lemon, zested and juiced 1 orange, zested and juiced 1 tbsp tarragon, chopped finely 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar 1 pinch of nutmeg 1 tsp Dijon mustard ½ cup grapeseed, canola, or olive oil

salt and white pepper, to taste

Place all ingredients except oil in blender or food processor and pulse.  Slowly add oil, until dressing is thick. OR, place all ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

For the salad: 1-2 lbs of beets. (red, chioggia or yellow) olive oil salt and pepper 1 pound rhubarb 1 cup of sugar in 2 quarts of boiling water

1 lb of your favorite spring greens:  arugula, spinach, mesclun mix, baby beet greens, etc.

Wash rhubarb and cut into small bite size bites. Wash beets, toss in oil with salt and pepper, wrap in aluminum foil and place in 400 degree oven until tender.  Remove from oven, allow to cool, and rub off skins. Slice beets into bite-size quarters and place in a bowl.  Place rhubarb in boiling water just long enough for rhubarb to become slightly tender—not mushy!  Add to beets.

Place greens in a bowl and toss with just enough dressing to coat.  Pour out on a platter and sprinkle warm rhubarb and beet mixture over the top and serve. Beets and rhubarb should be warm when placed on the greens.   Feta, blue cheese, and slivered almonds make wonderful additions.

Root Salad

After doing quite a bit of research, I came  across a website that is extremely helpful for farm to school programs and healthy food tasting.  I recommend visiting Washington State’s Farm to School website and checking out their “Washington Grown Food Kit,” where you will find a number of links to vegetable and fruit nutrition and education facts, as well as recipes that are often split into appropriateness for schools, seniors, and child care.  This is where I found this mouth-watering root salad recipe that is perfect for preparing in the classroom or in your home kitchen. This recipe is adapted for a classroom size of 25! Each student would be able to try a 1/4 cup.

Ingredients: 1 pound Parsnips 1/2 pound Carrots 6 oz Beets 1 tbs Grated ginger 3 tbs Honey 3 tbs Fresh lemon juice 3 tbs Fresh orange juice 6 tbs Olive oil

Begin by cleaning and grating all vegetables and set aside.  Then, mix in the ginger, honey, fresh juices, and olive oil.  Combine the veggies into the homemade dressing and mix well.  Let stand for about one hour so that the vegetables can marinate.  Then serve and enjoy!

Pretty easy, huh?  – And a perfect recipe to do with students of all ages – knives aren’t necessary except to initially cut through the fruit (which an adult can surly handle before the salad preparation begins).  Also, using peelers to create ribbons of vegetables instead of graters can be a fun and safe way to get kids involved in the cooking. Adding raisins, cilantro, parsley, and/or scallions are other interesting and delicious variations to this recipe.

Happy Wednesday and remember to eat lots of vegetables !

Healthier Chocolate Beet Cake

In case you were wondering about chocolate beet cake, here is a delicious recipe (adapted from Straight from the Farm) that Everyday Kids used to reward our students for an excellent day of learning!

Ingredients: 3/4 cup butter, softened 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar 2 tsp baking soda 3 eggs at room temp 1/4 tsp salt 2-3 oz. dark chocolate 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 medium beets (2 cups pureed) 1/2 tsp cinnamon 1/4 tsp nutmeg

To make beet puree, trim stems and roots off beets and quarter them.  Place in a heavy saucepan filled with water and simmer for 50 minutes or until the beets are tender.  Drain off remaining liquid and rinse beets in cold water.  Slide skins off and place beets in blender or food processor.  Process until a smooth puree forms.  Let cool slightly.  Can be made up to several days ahead and refrigerated.

In a mixing bowl, add cream, butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Melt chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave and cool slightly. Blend chocolate, beets and vanilla into the creamed mixture.

Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to the creamed mixture and mix well. Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch cake pan. Bake at 375 degrees F for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Eat as is, or sprinkle lightly with confectioners’ sugar.  For a decadent twist, whip up a batch of orange cream cheese frosting.

Red Beet Pancakes

Right, Valentine’s day is over – but I still can’t get enough of beets!  Taste is very important to any recipe, but for kids, appearance and interaction with food is at least equally critical to getting them to eat something  This beet pancake recipe is a great way to get kids involved with cooking something healthy and different…and they will love the color.  I got this amazing recipe from Weelicious, an awesome blog filled with fun and kid-friendly recipes and cooking videos.Red Beet Pancakes (Serves 6)

1 Cup All Purpose Flour 3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour 3 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar 1 Tbsp Baking Powder 1/2 Tsp Kosher Salt 2 medium beets roasted and pureed* 1 1/4 Cup Milk 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt 1 Large Egg 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, melted 1 Tsp Vanilla extract

Puree* 1. To puree, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. 2. Take a piece of aluminum foil and and cover the beets on both sides.  Bake for 45 minutes. 3. Let the beets cool and then skin the beets (use gloves or a plastic bag if you don’t want to stain your hands).  The skin should just slide off. 4. Cut beets and then puree in a food processor or blender.

Pancakes 1. Place the first 5 ingredients into a mixing bowl. 2. Put the rest of the wet ingredients into a separate bowl and mix well. 3. Add the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until just combined (you don’t want to overstir the batter — some lumps are good). 4. Drop about 2 tbsp of the pancake mixture onto a greased griddle or pan over medium heat and cook for 3 minutes on each side. 5. Serve with desired toppings!

There are no more excuses for unhealthy breakfasts due to busy schedules.  You can freeze these pancakes for up to 3 months in a plastic ziplock!

Beet and Berry Smoothie

There are only a few more days left until Valentines Day!  Valentines Day is a wonderful “excuse” to really take some time away from working and hectic schedules to sit down as a family and spend time together.  But wait – isn’t Valentines Day famous for its emphasis on sugary sweets and chocolate, chocolate, and um… more chocolate ?  How about straying away from those high-calorie and nutrition-deficient temptations and trying something just as yummy but a lot better for you? Fruit smoothies are a great addition to anyone’s day.  No, it’s not easy to get local fruit this time of year in the Northeast – but nothing satisfies the urge for sweets more than some fresh berries, local beets, and local maple syrup.  For a delicious “Red” Valentines Day Smoothie just add these ingredients into a blender and enjoy (perfect for any time of the day, too!).

Ingredients: 1 cup vanilla soy milk 1 raw beet peeled and grated 1/2 cup strawberry soy yogurt 1 ripe banana 1 1/4 cups of frozen mixed berries 3-4 fresh strawberries 2 tbsp maple syrup

Blend all of the ingredients together until smooth.  Make sure you’re using a heavy-duty blender like Vitamix, Magic Bullet, or even a food processor (beets are hard!).  Add in the fresh strawberries last and pulse the blender.  Feel free to add more milk if you like a thinner smoothie.  If you prefer dairy products you can go that route, too!  But don’t be afraid to try something  The non-dairy versions are delicious!

Fun strawberry Facts~ Strawberries are packed with Vitamin C and are low in calories. There are over 600 varieties of strawberries, varying in shape, size and color! Strawberries are the only fruits with seeds on the outside.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

Vegetables to roast (choose any combination of the following):

  • potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • sweet potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • celery root (celeriac), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • beets, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • rutabagas, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • parsnips, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • fennel bulbs, cored, cut into half-inch pieces


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • salt and pepper


  • herbs, like thyme, marjoram, or rosemary
  • vinegar, like balsamic


Preheat to 400°F. Combine all remaining ingredients except garlic in very large bowl; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide vegetable mixture between heavy baking sheets, if necessary. Roast 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic cloves to baking sheet(s).  Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 45 minutes longer. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Let stand on baking sheets at room temperature. Rewarm in 450°F oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.)  Transfer roasted vegetables to large bowl and then serve.

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